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Thursday, May 3, 2012: Global Forum Recap

After spending the afternoon on group advocacy visits to Capitol Hill, government departments, foreign embassies, and religious and ethnic organizations, AJC convened for a World Leaders Plenary featuring, among others, three foreign ministers who came especially to the U.S. to address AJC.

Over 1500 people from more than 50 countries were in the audience, including diplomats from around the world, leaders of Jewish communities, and other dignitaries. After Jason Isaacson read a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, a new Project Interchange film about Israel was shown. PI, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, has brought some 6,000 leaders and opinion makers to Israel to see the country for themselves.

Guido Westervelle, the foreign minister of Germany, praised AJC’s outreach to Germany after World War II, unique among Jewish organizations, that started with exchange visits and eventually came to include programs with German political foundations and the German army, and the establishment of an AJC office in Berlin. Minister Westervelle emphasized Germany's opposition to anti-Semitism, and said that Germany “cannot and will not accept an Iranian nuclear weapon.” He spoke of his country’s close relationship with Israel and expressed support for a two-state solution based in the 1967 lines, with land swaps.

Speaking for the American administration, Jacob Lew, the president’s chief of staff, outlined the steps President Obama has taken to improve the economy for middle-class Americans. Mr. Lew then described the administration’s unprecedented military and strategic cooperation with Israel and its actions against Palestinian unilateralism and the Iranian nuclear initiative.

Both Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Marcoullis of Cyprus and Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopolous of Greece (on video) hailed their countries’ excellent relations with Israel and spelled out the strategic and economic benefits on all sides. A subtly stated subtext was a common problem all three countries face: an economically strong and not particularly friendly Turkey.

John Baird, foreign minister of Canada, proudly declared that his country was Israel’s best friend on the world scene. This was, he said, a matter of shared values, as Canada got no political benefit from this either domestically or internationally. He totally rejected the attitude of “going along to get along” that induces many countries to automatically vote against Israel at the UN because of political expediency.

The evening ended with a memorial tribute to the four Jews killed by a Muslim gunman in Toulouse, France, on March 19, delivered by Richard Prasquier, head of CRIF, the representative body of French Jewry, followed by recitation of the Kaddish.